Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Many Faces of Wonder Woman, Part III

Harry G. Peter's Wonder Woman......started playing with trading cards long before Meltzer's JLA.

Irv Novick's Wonder Woman... more a diver than a flyer.

Ross Andru's Wonder Woman...
...makes up in scrapbooking what she lacks in muscle tone.

Mike Sekowsky's Wonder Woman...
...yes, well...

Bob Oksner's Wonder Woman...
...must be begged.

Jose Delbo's Wonder Woman... action figure accessories.

Dave Cockrum's Wonder Woman... trying to steal Superman's shtick.

Mike Kaluta's Wonder Woman...
...went a bit heavy on the blush and eye make-up this morning.

Ed Hannigan's Wonder Woman... trying out a new invisible glider.

Gil Kane's Wonder Woman... going to choke the living hell out of Jean Loring.

All images in Part III from Wonder Woman's classic original series.
Part I
Part II

Star Trek 874: Marriage of Inconvenience

874. Marriage of Inconvenience

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #50, DC Comics, May 1988

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8994.6 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: When it's revealed that the stunted albino "Moron" is a Klingon/human half-breed, Nancy Bryce gets cold feet about her wedding to Konom. Meanwhile, Spock determines there are three possible targets for Captain Zair's USS Renegade (actually a commandeered USS Zephyr apparently commanded by Zair's alter ego, Phil Burroughs, who is being fed advanced technology by some called the Cognoscenti). The Klingons take one, the Enterprise another. The other, less logical, is ignored for now. Since records show that the Zephyr's last mission was to Omicron Ceti IV, Kirk sends a shuttle full of volunteers on what could be a suicide mission. A heart-broken Konom leads the party, and Bearclaw, hoping to get back into the captain's good graces, tricks his way in at the last second. On Omicron Ceti IV, they meet heavy opposition from an army of androids. Meanwhile, Moron babbles about the ignored third target, and Kirk follows his hunch. Enterprise surprises Renegade and a party manages to beam in and capture the raiders, all except Zair who has taken a shuttle to Omicron Ceti. Kirk follows and fights his volunteers including Bearclaw whom he relegates to the brig, and the corpse of Phil Burroughs, dead for some two weeks! Having come to their senses, Nancy and Konom finally tie the knot...

CONTINUITY: Emperor Kahless IV from the start of this series and the Federation president from ST IV appear. The Enterprise is - all together now - the only ship in the quadrant!

DIVERGENCES: Kirk's cooperation with Klingons after his son's death goes against his feelings in ST VI. Omicron Ceti IV doesn't seem to be the same planet in This Side of Paradise, nor be in the same star system.

PANEL OF THE DAY - Kooky Klingon fridge messages
REVIEW: Here we go, here we go. There are some lovely moments in this double-sized issue, especially concerning Spock. He cleverly uses the Klingons' honor against them and later masterfully convinces Bryce of her error. His wisdom shines though. Bearclaw DOESN'T meet his end, but instead keeps digging his career's grave deeper and deeper, and I'm glad the cliché is being avoided. A near-collision between ships is as surprising and chaotic to the reader as it is to the characters. The story is generally told with humor and cleverness, though the plot is basically there to hang the scenes on. David shows his penchant for superpowered action (a staple of his New Frontier books) with original crew members like the broadcast telepath and a super-strong giant. Pretty sure I don't like that cover though.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Phantom Lady Proves Wertham Right

Today, we all chuckle at Frederick Wertham's contention that comics lead to the Seduction of the Innocent. Surely, the Golden Age mags of his time weren't akin to razor blades in a Halloween apple? Just clean, wholesome fun with cartoon violence? Let's open a time capsule and see...The label says 1948...

PHANTOM LADY #16, Fox Feature Syndicate, February 1948
Was Wertham right? Well, London newspapers aren't the only place you can find Page 3 Girls. Here's the top of page 3:
Maybe not unexpected in a mag whose star wears this skimpy an outfit:
Good ol' bondage'n'shovel between the legs action. And now...

A sexy burlesque show!
Ok, well, that's all sex. Young boys in the late 40s had to learn about it from SOMEwhere. But the violence! The violence is just harmless, cartoony fun!
Eep! Guess not.

And don't look to the back-up feature, Clara Peete - The Beautiful Beast, to cleanse your palate either. I'm afraid it's more of the same!
On both fronts!
It's the violent cleavage story to end all violent cleavage stories.

Now let's forward to April 1955 and the post-Code Phantom Lady #3 published by Ajax Comics.
Wait... what the hell happened to her costume?!?
Booo! Hisss!!!! Sneer!!!!

You can't deprive the Innocents of the Seduction they crave! It's just not right!


Star Trek 873: Aspiring to be Angels

873. Aspiring to be Angels

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #49, DC Comics, April 1988

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8988.9 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: As Kirk deals with the events of last issue's bachelor party - including "drying out" McCoy, Chekov and Scotty for a month, and informing Bearclaw that he is to be transferred - the crew of the "USS Renegade" is finishing off its massacre of a Klingon scientific outpost. The Enterprise arrives in time to save the last survivor, an albino simpleton who believes his name is Moron (he's been called that enough). The renegades, intent on causing friction between the Federation and the Klingons with their activities, kidnap Kirk and his party, at which point the two ships do battle. But the Enterprise has its hands tied when Kirk and his people are put out on the hull. A Klingon warship enters the system, the Renegade cloaks leaving its prisoners floating in space. The Klingons pick them up, but is content to return them to the Enterprise to go after the Renegade. Before they leave, the Klingon captain takes an moment to spit on the pacifist traitor Konom and what he assumes is Konom and Bryce's moronic deviant of a child...

CONTINUITY: Konom has heard rumors about The Enterprise Incident.

DIVERGENCES: That Klingon weapons research is conducted deep in Romulan territory is an odd assertion. The "USS Renegade", a Reliant-class ship, activates its cloaking device.

PANEL OF THE DAY - And then there was the time Sam Beckett leaped into Sulu and Al tried to convince him to have sex with a cat girl.
REVIEW: I'm not sure who to blame, but there are some odd pacing problems in this book. An elevator scene turned on its side so it would fit in an otherwise normal page. A dilated full-page moment of Moron sliding down a hole. That sort of thing. There's also a weird and obvious paste job on whatever "Captain Zair" used to be called. And Moron the Albino wasn't colored white in the previous issue, creating a continuity mistake. Otherwise, a good enough second chapter. Zair is a worthy foe with some interesting tricks up his sleeve. Bearclaw's arc is coming to a head (is he now dramatically obligated to die heroically?). It definitely seems like character development is being more tightly woven into the plot under David's direction.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Midnight Showing

(Spoilers for Midnight and the whole of Series 4 ahead.)A couple years ago, I made the case that the Doctor's telepathy was responsible for sending out "trust me" vibes, essentially explaining why, even in the absence of psychic paper, he and his companion could insert themselves into any situation and have people follow their lead, including the native authorities.

Well along comes Midnight in which the Doctor loses the civilians' trust rather eye-openingly and something else in the bargain - his voice. By examining this lean, mean episode from the most unlikely of sources - usually baroque carnival barker Russel T Davies - are we to see a new model for the Doctor's "telepathic seduction" that requires a vocal component? After all, isn't the Master's hypnosis highly dependent on words? "I am the Master and you will obey me. You will obey ME!!!"

Telepathically abetted or not, the Doctor manipulates people through TALKING. Fast talking, talking sense, speaking out of turn, taunting enemies, pep talking friends... it's all in the voice. And it's true that before he speaks, a lot of people he encounters are suspicious, ask too many questions, or are downright hostile towards him. Midnight shows us what it would be like if the Doctor couldn't use his powers of persuasion. Check it out: In the first minutes of the episode, everything's fine. While the transport provides entertainment, and some passengers have brought their own, the Doctor insists on getting to know them, on speaking to each and everyone of them, gaining in turn their trust. (In his line of work, you just never know when it'll become useful.)
Then, the accident and the creature that possesses Sky enters the craft. Let's note exactly when the trust between the passengers and the Doctor starts to break down. It's once the suggestion of throwing Sky out has been broached and the Doctor has vetoed it. By then, the creature inside Sky has been "repeating" everyone's speech simultaneously for a while. Normally, the Doctor should be able to contain those murderous thoughts, bring everyone to order, but he can't. What's happening?

If his power is in his voice, Sky's acts as a sort of interference. You could say copying him dilutes or corrupts his message, and cancels out its persuasion. After all, the creature is no doubt telepathic and may have the same kind of "voice hypnosis" the Time Lords do. Sky knew it's coming for her. Paranoia? Or sensing its presence? In any case, it's able to inhabit a person, and to "repeat" BEFORE a person's spoken, it must be able to read one's thoughts, and link to its mind. By the time the passengers turn on the Doctor, it may have eroded his ability to be trusted entirely.
Suddenly, everything that should strike someone as odd about the Doctor IS odd. He has no name, has no fixed address, talks to people randomly, seems entirely too interested in dangerous phenomena, is too smart and nosy for his own good... And that never struck anyone before because...? (It has, of course, but some people will always be resistant to his charms.) And why are these people suddenly capable of murder? If the creature has stolen the Doctor's convincing tones, then might it not be able to influence people to its way of thinking? Instead of doing the right thing (which the Doctor seems to most inspire), they want to do Sky's bidding.

And by the time Sky has completely stolen the Doctor's voice and left him catatonic, they really are doing her bidding. She's the charmer they unreasonably trust. She explains it thus: "He makes you fight. Creeps into your head. And whispers." She says this about the Doctor, but means the creature. Don't they sort of have the same ability, though? The Doctor's "vibes" whisper good, positive things, but it's a similar principle, making you more open to accepting his presence. A bit like the TARDIS' chameleon circuit? And like it's universal translator?

Every time I watch Midnight, I feel the same tension and apprehension, largely due to the sound design. So my hat's off to the creep masters responsible.

Things to watch out for
Donna's Destiny: There's a parallel between Sky and the finale's Donna, isn't there? Both characters take on the Doctor's characteristics, in essence become a Doctor with the use of the Doctor's words (though Donna does not take, she shares).
They call it foreshadowing: The Doctor says whatever nonsense comes to mind to test Sky. This includes the "Medusa Cascade". When repeating Sky, he gets to say "I'm coming back to life." A hint of his aborted regeneration in the finale?
Where's my planet?: Dee Dee wrote a paper on the Lost Moon of Poosh.
Dusty Rose: The Doctor mentions leaving a friend in a different universe, and then that very friend shows up on one of the shuttle's entertainment screens.
How does she do that anyway? I'll touch on the subject next time.

And next time: What if the Doctor had never met Donna?

Star Trek 872: The Stars in Secret Influence

872. The Stars in Secret Influence

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #48, DC Comics, March 1988

CREATORS: Peter David (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 8983.2 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: It's Konom's bachelor party! It's all fun and games and Nancy Bryce dressing up as an Orion slave girl, until McCoy, Scotty and Chekov all spike the punch separately. After that, we have Sulu seducing M'Ress with a sonnet, Konom shouting abuse at his bride-to-be, and a racially motivated brawl breaking out. When Kirk walks in, he is hit in the head by a bottle thrown by Bearclaw. He's dressing down the participants when a distress call comes in from a Klingon science station that has just been attacked by a Starfleet ship...

CONTINUITY: Orion slave girls... turning Starfleet boys since The Cage.

DIVERGENCES: The stardate is unexplainably set back (this isn't to mesh better with the upcoming ST V, which occurs even earlier on stardate 8454.1). Konom states that Klingons don't have bachelor parties, though Worf's wedding puts the lie to that (somewhat).

PANEL OF THE DAY - Nancy Bryce, the 23rd century's She-Hulk
REVIEW: It's Peter David's first ever Star Trek work, and it's noteworthy that he starts with a character development issue, making the characters his own. Some of his choices are odd (but Sulu SHOULD grow have a new interest every once in a while). There's a lot of fun to be had with the grand sages of alcohol, Scotty and McCoy, too. He keeps working on the redeeming of Bearlcaw, but introduces a cloud on the wedding couple's horizon. The attacked Klingon outpost subplot is introduced as a counterpoint, and we'll see where that goes. Seeing as Peter David would go on to write some pretty high profile Star Trek novels in addition to a LOT of Trek comics, I can't wait to see what he cooked up first.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The 10 Strangest GURPS Books

...and why I seem to only want to play with those.

GURPS (the Generic Universal Role-Playing System) has had a ton of sourcebooks over the years - perhaps in order to prove that it truly was universal. GURPS picked up some surprising licensed properties (Riverworld, The Prisoner, War Against the Chtorr), done intriguing original settings (Technomancher, Transhuman Space), explored some of the less traveled eras of human history (Ice Age, Aztecs), and covered genres we don't usually see (Atomic Horror, Cops). But none of these are quite as books on the following list...

10. WWII - Iron Cross
Nazi Germany and its Forces
Given that GURPS had a WWII line, it's quite normal for it to have a sourcebook on WWII's principal adversaries (while Italy got a thin book, Japan never got its due). But the way Iron Cross does it is pretty controversial. See, it's not just a book detailing NPC villains, it's built like any other stand-alone GURPS sourcebook. That means it has a section on player character creation and campaigning AS a Nazi. Well, to be fair, I should say: As a GERMAN. And while films like Cross of Iron and Stalag 17 do show that there's the potential for honorable characters in the premise, especially if the idea of a campaign fated to end of disaster appeals to you, there's also a way to play "proper", anti-Semitic Nazis. Gestapo and Hitler Youth are among the character templates, and "Aryan Elite" is a proposed campaign. Of COURSE, the book doesn't promote Nazi ideology, but it's still off-putting. For a group interested in a heavy and dark role-playing experience, this could be very interesting though.

9. Robin Hood
Adventures in Sherwood Forest... and Beyond
Sounds a little narrow, but nothing wrong with Robin Hood role-play, is there? Certainly not, and just as GURPS Scarlet Pimpernel covered all of Revolutionary France, this book gives us a fair Lion-Hearted setting. Then, on page 47, it throws the setting out in favor of "The Ghost of the Moors", an 18th-century Scottish Robin Hood. And then four more "Robin Hoods" in other eras and genres. There are Old West, Supers, Cyberpunk and Space versions of Robin included. Yes, this is the book you need to play Rocket Robin Hood. I wouldn't kid you about something like that.

8. All-Star Jam 2004
Ten Authors. One Book.
Just an odd idea for a product. All-Star Jam is a Best of Pyramid with unpublished articles, basically. Some of the articles are on general topics - airships, precursor races, ghost breaking, underground adventures - but there are also some odd little campaign settings you could reasonably flesh out with other GURPS books. The Chariot Age of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, et al.; Alchemical Baroque, a fairy tale world approaching our 18th century; Meridian, a space opera in which planets are linked by railroad tracks(!); and a historical campaign in which the last band of Spartans roams a decaying Europe. There's also a chapter on babysitting Cthulhu spawn, so...

7. Vehicles
From Chariots to Cybertanks... and Beyond!
A crunch book, one of GURPS' strangest? Definitely. A useful version of Vehicles would include stats for every possible vehicle in every possible setting. Instead, David Pulver has written an engineering manual that is so crunchy, it will break your jaw. Vehicles are built from the ground up. You need to take into account every component, calculating volume, weight and performance so that it all makes "sense". As an example, the formula for Aerodynamic Drag is [(Sa-R)/Sl] + D, so [(total surface area of vehicle - surface of anything retractable) / streamlining)] + the sum of various modifiers that include seating and loaded hard points. That Batmobile better be worth it!! Kudos to McCubbin and Sheeley who created the Sprockets campaign setting (Best of Pyramid vol.1) in which pokemon balls with crazy vehicles in them fall from the sky just so you could muster the courage to use this book.

6. IOU
Welcome to Illuminati University!
Get yourself a blender. Throw in GURPS Illuminati, Call of Cthulhu's Miskatonic University and Teenagers from Outer Space. Blend and have the results illustrated by Phil Foglio. Now, you're getting it! Or it's Veronica Mars meets Lovecraft meets Weird Science. If you're in college - and if you're an active role-player, there's a good chance you are - here's your chance to recreate your undergraduate experience with temporal physics lab experiments gone wrong, and the University President as an Elder God. The more I think about it, the only really strange part of this book is the section on playing it straight.

5. Callahan's Crosstime Saloon
Welcome to the Most Amazing Bar in the Universe!
Sometimes you wonder why someone thought a property would make a good role-playing game. I have nothing but respect for Spider Robinson's amusing short stories, but Callahan's? Really? Sure, the setting can be used as a meeting place for characters of, well, ANY campaign, and could provide characters access to any GURPS-supported setting. However, and the sourcebook bears this out, Callahan stories are mostly about talking. Telling tale tales, finishing jokes with terrible puns, and participating in riddle contests. Given that Neil Gaiman's Sandman and the recent House of Mystery comic have both featured a similar "Saloon", maybe the world is finally ready for Callahan's. Oh, yeah, and read the section on how more and more people are playing by "modem" and how CCS is perfect for it!

4. Casey and Andy
An e23 Sourcebook for GURPS from Steve Jackson Games
Outdoing Callahan's in the "they got the license for WHAT?" category, this pdf-only 34-page sourcebook is based on a now dead web comic. The hook is that it's about two mad scientist roommates who tend to blow themselves up a lot. As a guide for fans of the strip, it's pretty sweet, but to everyone else, it'll read like a spoof of a setting (I do like the silly time travel paradox flow chart) with not much incentive to create your own characters. A resource strictly for those difficult years after your characters have left Illuminati University.

3. Goblins
Be Warned, Gentle Reader...
I love low-powered gaming, but I realize I'm in the minority. GURPS characters are already on the low end of the scale at 100 points (most of my campaigns have at gone for the more heroic 125-point model, oooh), but Goblins are 15-point characters with as many as -150 points in disadvantage on top of that. Ouch. The ugly, often diseased, deformed Goblins are a metaphor for the underclass in what is essentially Georgian London. Their lot in life is to be used and abused, and of course, to get into trouble. Designers Malcolm Dale and Klaude Thomas have written the book in its own peculiar style (marking both era and the point of view of base outsiders) and have truly adapted the system to match the atmosphere they want to create. Initiative here goes to anyone who declares he's "whacking" first; Guns roll against Theology, which explains why mafiosos are all Catholic and the Pope and King can't be killed; there's a luck mechanic; and a selection of mistreatments provide the characters with a pile of both mental and physical disadvantages. For a marginal idea like this to get a full-color treatment at Steve Jackson Games (home of the black and white stock art) is nothing short of bizarre. Friggin' gorgeous in every way though.

2. Bunnies & Burrows
Roleplaying in a World of Intelligent Animals
Starting out as an early RPG based on Watership Down in 1976, B&B found its way into publication again in '79 and then '82, but GURPS finally snagged it in 1992. Why Steve Jackson went so aggressively after it is probably mired in nostalgia. In B&B, you get to play rabbits. They're smart enough to talk to each other and collaborate, but they still don't have opposable thumbs (that is why humans are the only true monsters). Combat usually means running away. It's even more low tech than GURPS Ice Age (though you gotta smile at the little straw backpacks they're sporting on the book cover). And not a ninja in sight. (Actually, the book does include some tools to power game your bunnies, like psionics, herbalism and yes, Bun Fu.)

1. Fantasy II
Adventures in the Mad Lands
They've called it experimental. They've said it was nigh unplayable. It's the Mad Lands, where technology doesn't really exist, and magic isn't easily accessible to players (in fact, they should fear it). Here are some of the elements: A pantheon of gods based on Winnie the Poo which are to feared, not worshiped. All monsters are distorted, corrupted human beings (feet with faces and headless men, for example). Gem injection sorcery, which may become addictive. The Soulless, bored immortal beings who toy with humanity. And to cope, a rather resilient people with a sense of humor and a pre-technological tribal culture that reminds me of Canadian Natives (including the Inuit). It's like playing GURPS Ice Age with Grant Morrison as your GameMaster.

But perhaps I underevaluated the strangeness of YOUR favorite GURPS book? Let me know!

Star Trek 871: Idol Threats

871. Idol Threats

PUBLICATION: Star Trek #47, DC Comics, February 1988

CREATORS: Michael Carlin (writer), Tom Sutton and Ricardo Villagran (artists)

STARDATE: 9219.7 (follows the last issue)

PLOT: When the unfortunately named training ship USS Cluster loses its captain to the Romulans, a cadet names himself acting captain and goes after that like his idol, Captain Kirk, would. The blood maverick in training blows it however, and the Romulans not only kill some cadets, but board the ship as well. Thankfully, one of the more junior cadets sent out a distress call picked up by the Enterprise and Kirk shows up in the nick of time. He dresses down the young acting captain and lets the Romulans go.

CONTINUITY: The Romulan commander is the same as in #34-36 of this series. This story's premise was reprised on the DS9 episode Valiant.


PANEL OF THE DAY - Sisko's prototype?
REVIEW: An odd story in that Kirk and crew are peripheral to it, though it IS about Kirk and how his past actions might inspire wrongdoing. Of course, that means the story depends on some pretty broadly written new characters, with acting captain Penn coming off as a (more?) psychotic version of Ensign Bearclaw. I do like Ventura, but it's all about the art (makes me miss the similarly drawn Saavik). There's shock value in how gory Captain Fields' death is, and some creative art decisions from Sutton (though his cadets don't look particularly young). Otherwise, between the low Enterprise content and the Romulan not getting their commupence, Carlin leaves the series with a whimper.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This Week in Geek (20-26/04/09)


Two new DVDs this week. The first is Frost/Nixon (see below), and the other is Zack and Miri Make a Porno, because I simply can't pass up a Kevin Smith movie.

Based on this interview, I also procured myself the pdf copy of Chad Underkoffler's new RPG, Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. I've always loved Chad's designs in Pyramid Online, and have used more than one in my games, so I was more than happy to send some bucks his way. I'd say everything he's done, I've found fun and original, and this is no different. Imagine a world like snowglobe with floating islands in which pirates and privateers fly. 'nuff said.


DVDs: I flipped a number of films over the week, the first of which was A Few Good Men. I'd seen it plenty of times before, as have you, I'm sure. This time, however, I had my eye on Aaron Sorkin's writing tropes (I'd never realized he'd written it those other times). Yeah, now I can see how some of it was transposed to Sports Night, West Wing, etc. The DVD has a skippable commentary track by director Rob Reiner. He hardly ever speaks! I hate that. The documentary features are much better.

Next up was Burn After Reading. The only thing I know to expect from the Cohen Bros. is the unexpected, and that's what I got. A comedy by virtue of its stupid middle-aged characters (I mean that in a hilarious way), but with some pretty dark Cohen moments as well. I'm damn near close to saying they made George Clooney into a believable dork. Accompanying interviews are pretty entertaining, what with the Cohens' usual obfuscation and each cast member getting his or her due.

Then, Alexander Fodor's Hamlet. Wow. I'm really ambivalent about this experimental, artsy take on my favorite play (I'm collecting them, so the purchase was a no-brainer). Sometimes clever, sometimes pretentious. Sometimes stylish, sometimes awkwardly staged. Sometimes beautiful, and others, amateurish. Whatever it is, it's always interesting and never boring. Fodor does things like change the sex of Polonius and Horatio, creating entirely new relationships with other characters (Horatio is majorly hot), and one can't dismiss his (e)state of Denmark's corruption. The omni-presence of the ghost is also well handled. I'm less entranced by the acting by all these first timers, especially Hamlet's. I mean, fluffing lines? One thing's for sure, the staging definitely undercuts Hamlet's arc, or else heavily hinges on you knowing the story and thus deducing its meanings. Deleted scenes restore some important beats, but not many.

And then last night: Frost/Nixon. Entrancing. I wouldn't have believed it from a talking head movie about, you know, trying to get an interview with someone, and then sitting down for that interview, especially from Ron "no style" Howard. But it totally works as an intellectual boxing movie. The performances are top notch, nuanced, funny, and moving. Frank Langella in particular... I felt immense sympathy for his Nixon, and by ricochet for the real Nixon when I saw parts of the real interviews on the extras. Ron Howard supplies an excellent commentary track that made me appreciate his work a lot more, and making of documentary features are well made, including a visit to the Nixon Library.

Books: Nice weather has allowed me to start reading again (I do most of mine while walking to and from work), so I finally finished What If?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, edited by Robert Cowley. Though it sounds like it would turn into sci-fi, historians actually use their essays to discuss the pivotal moments of various events, and how they could easily have gone another way, and what consequences this might have had given the personalities and trends of the time. I started reading this years ago and got bogged down in the American Civil War. Just not my interest. Not compared to the Antiquity or the Middle Ages. Of course, once I got past my hurdle, it was all World War/Cold War goodness.

New Unauthorized Doctor Who CCG cards: 6 cards, completing the Infinite Space expansion. Next up, a small premium set based on Sarah Jane Adventures Series 1.
Someone Else's Post of the Week
Topless Robot had this ridiculous notion of making Kafka play video games from the 80s, and you know what? BRILLIANT. I never realized how their repetitive nature was a Kafka novel in the making.

Star Trek 870: Star Trek Star Charts

870. Star Trek Star Charts

PUBLICATION: Pocket Books, October 2002

CREATORS: Written and illustrated by Geoffrey Mandel

STARDATE: Covers all of canonical Trek up to the end of Enterprise Season 1

TOPIC: A lavishly illustrated 95-page full-color glossy softcover atlas of the Star Trek universe in all periods explored on the show and in the the films up to 2002. Not only does it contain all known details about explored space in all four quadrants, but heavily illustrated descriptions of sector divisions, planet and star classes, and Dominion War troop movements. Maps go from macro (the entire galaxy) to micro (a single star system like Earth's and Bajor's), but usually show explored sections of quadrants, often with particular trade routes or famous voyages indicated. Most of the book follows standard Starfleet (human) format, but some examples of alien maps are included (Bajoran, Vulcan, Cardassian, etc.). For those who would like to rip out some pages and stick them on their wall, gatefolds of a UFP map in sections are included.

CONTINUITY: Tons, since it uses every possible onscreen reference to place star systems and stellar phenomena on a coherent map. It makes some guesses and suppositions, and tries to answer some conundrums, like how Enterprise could reach the Klingon homeworld in only 4 days, or what happened to the Valakis and the Menk (Dear Doctor), but you'd have to be a major nerd to notice something like that.

DIVERGENCES: Most divergences are due to the last 3 seasons of Enterprise and include... Archer IV is misidentified as Larocus Prime (Strange New Worlds). Klach D'Kel Brakt is misidentified as a Klingon system, when it is actually the Klingon name for the Briar Patch (The Augments). Andoria is misidentified as a Class M planet in the wrong part of space (The Aenar). The location of both Denobula and Berengaria (This Side of Paradise) was more or less contradicted on screen (Bound). In matters unrelated to Enterprise, AR-558 and Chin'toka should be in the same system (The Siege of AR-558).

ILLUSTRATION OF THE DAY - Seems like we have a lot of stuff on our side of the border.
REVIEW: Incredibly geeky, yes, but still a gorgeous book. For someone following the show attentively, it can be fun to look up certain planets and flight paths, and though there are few pieces of actual text, they're usually fun bits, like how Rigel has an inordinate amount of habitable planets, and that Rura Penthe has become a sort of space Australia. And it just looks nice. There are a couple of problems with it, however. One has to do with the book format. The softcover makes the center of each 2-page map plunge into the binding, which obscures details. This is particularly evident in the Alpha/Beta divide, with Earth sitting squarely in the seam. The other is that there's no index, so if you have no idea where a certain place would be, you'll have to play Where's Waldo with it. And though you'll be able to see where various empires are in relation to one another (the First Federation still exists?!), you might still wonder how the Kazon and Malon get to show up at so many points in Voyager's supposedly straight journey home.